The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness

The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness


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The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness by Linda Kaplan Thaler, Robin Koval

Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval have moved to the top of the advertising industry by following a simple but powerful philosophy: it pays to be nice. Where so many companies encourage a dog eat dog mentality, the Kaplan Thaler Group has succeeded through chocolate and flowers. In The Power of Nice, through their own experiences and the stories of other people and businesses, they demonstrate why, contrary to conventional wisdom, nice people finish first.

Turning the well-known adage of “Nice Guys Finish Last” on its ear, The Power of Nice shows that “nice” companies have lower employee turnover, lower recruitment costs, and higher productivity. Nice people live longer, are healthier, and make more money. In today’s interconnected world, companies and people with a reputation for cooperation and fair play forge the kind of relationships that lead to bigger and better opportunities, both in business and in life.

Kaplan Thaler and Koval illustrate the surprising power of nice with an array of real-life examples from the business arena as well as from their personal lives. Most important, they present a plan of action covering everything from creating a positive impression to sweetening the pot to turning enemies into allies. Filled with inspiration and suggestions on how to supercharge your career and expand your reach in the workplace, The Power of Nice will transform how you live and work.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385518925
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/19/2006
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 173,417
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.59(d)

About the Author

LINDA KAPLAN THALER is the CEO and chief creative officer and ROBIN KOVAL is the president of the Kaplan Thaler Group. Ranked as the fastest growing advertising agency in the United States by leading industry publications, with over a billion dollars in billings, the agency has won thirteen Clio Awards. Kaplan Thaler and Koval are the coauthors of the national bestseller, Bang! They live in the New York metropolitan area.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
The Power of Nice

For years, we have loved a particular security guard in our Manhattan office building. In fact, most of us at The Kaplan Thaler Group think the world of him. A large, jovial man in his mid-fifties, Frank brightens people’s days by giving everyone who walks into our building a huge, warm greeting. “Hello, Linda!” “Hello, Robin!” he’ll say. “Happy Friday!”

Frank’s engaging banter changed the way we started work in the morning. Instead of simply flashing our passes anonymously and making a beeline for the elevator, we found ourselves seeking out Frank and making sure to say hello. He set a positive tone for the entire day. But we never considered how Frank might be helping our business, other than preventing intruders from entering the premises.

That is, until the day Richard Davis, the president and COO of U.S. Bank, the sixth-largest bank in the United States, came to see us. For months, our entire team at The Kaplan Thaler Group had been working to create a pitch that would wow Davis and win us the huge U.S. Bank account.

At the time of Davis’s visit, it was down to the wire. We were one of two agencies still in the running for the account. Davis and his team were flying in from their executive offices in Minneapolis to meet personally with us. We didn’t realize it at the time, but in fact Davis and his staff were a bit apprehensive about the kind of treatment they’d get in New York City. The furious pace and hard-bitten “out of my way” attitude of the Big Apple had become part of the mythology of the city. They were afraid we would be too cold, too aloof.

But when Richard Davis and his team walked into our building, they received a warm, enthusiastic greeting from Frank. When Davis reached our offices a few minutes later, he was gushing about the friendly security guard. “This guy gave me a huge hello!” he said. “And all of a sudden, I thought how could I not want to work with a company that has someone like Frank? How can I feel anything but good about hiring an agency like that?” We won the account.

Of course, Davis wouldn’t have awarded us the job if he wasn’t impressed with our work. But we’ve gotta give Frank credit. With a multimillion-dollar account in the balance, it was Frank’s warm hello that helped us cinch the deal.

That is the power of nice.

The security guard wins the heart of the COO. It might sound like a Disney movie, but we can assure you it was no fantasy. We wrote The Power of Nice because we completely disagreed with the conventional wisdom that “Nice guys finish last” and “No good deed goes unpunished.” Our culture has helped to propagate the myth of social Darwinism–of survival of the fittest–that the cutthroat “me vs. you” philosophy wins the day. One of the biggest-selling career books in the past few years is called Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. Yet this completely contradicts the way we have run our business and our lives. In less than a decade, we built The Kaplan Thaler Group into a powerhouse in advertising with close to $1 billion in billings, making it one of the nation’s fastest-growing advertising agencies. Our success was won not with pitchforks and spears, but with flowers and chocolates. Our growth is the result not of fear and intimidation, but of smiles and compliments.

Time and time again, we have seen the extraordinary power of nice in our business dealings and in our personal lives. It is the patient passenger who politely asks the airline ticket agent to please check one more time who gets the first-class upgrade, rather than the “I’m a triple platinum member” blowhard. It is the driver who is polite and apologetic to the police officer who sometimes is forgiven for driving over the speed limit.

But nice has an image problem. Nice gets no respect. To be labeled “nice” usually means the other person has little else positive to say about you. To be nice is to be considered Pollyanna and passive, wimpy, and Milquetoast. Let us be clear: Nice is not naive. Nice does not mean smiling blandly while others walk all over you. Nice does not mean being a doormat. In fact, we would argue that nice is the toughest four-letter word you’ll ever hear. It means moving forward with the clear-eyed confidence that comes from knowing that being very nice and placing other people’s needs on the same level as your own will get you everything you want. Think about it:

Nice is luckier in love. People who are low-key and congenial have one-half the divorce rate of the general population, says a University of Toronto study.(1)

Nice makes more money. According to Professor Daniel Goleman, who conducted research on how emotions affect the workplace for his book Primal Leadership, there is a direct correlation between employee morale and the bottom line. One study found that every 2 percent increase in the service climate–that is, the general cheerfulness and helpfulness of the staff–saw a 1 percent increase in revenue.(2)

Nice is healthier. A University of Michigan study found that older Americans who provide support to others– either through volunteer work or simply by being a good friend and neighbor–had a 60 percent lower rate of premature death than their unhelpful peers.

Nice spends less time in court. One study found that doctors who had never been sued spoke to their patients for an average of three minutes longer than physicians who had been sued twice or more, reports Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

It is often the small kindnesses–the smiles, gestures, compliments, favors–that make our day and can even change our lives. Whether you are leading your own company, running for president of the PTA, or just trying to conduct a civil conversation with your teenage daughter, the power of nice will help you break through the misconceptions that keep you from achieving your goals. The power of nice will help you to open doors, improve your relationships at work and at home, and let you sleep a whole lot better. Nice not only finishes first; those who use its nurturing power wind up happier, to boot!

In the chapters ahead, we’ll show you that being nice doesn’t mean sacrificing what you want for someone else. There’s always a second, third, or even fourth solution when you apply the principles of nice.

Chapter 2
The Six Power of Nice Principles

The Power of Nice Principle #1

Positive impressions are like seeds.

Every time you smile at a messenger, laugh at a coworker’s joke, thank an assistant, or treat a stranger with graciousness and respect, you throw off positive energy. That energy makes an impression on the other person that, in turn, is passed along to and imprinted on the myriad others he or she meets. Such imprints have a multiplier effect. And ultimately, those favorable impressions find their way back to you. That doesn’t mean the waiter you tipped well will one day found a Fortune 100 company and offer you stock options (unless it was one hell of a tip). The results of the power of nice are rarely that direct. In fact, you may not notice any impact on your life for years, apart from the warm glow it gives you inside. Nonetheless, we have found that the power of nice has a domino effect. You may not ever be able to trace your good fortune back to a specific encounter, but it is a mathematical certainty that the power of nice lays the groundwork for many opportunities down the road. These positive impressions are like seeds. You plant them and forget about them, but underneath the surface, they’re growing and expanding, often exponentially.

Here’s an example of how the power of nice has worked for us. Not long ago, we featured Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, in an Aflac commercial, at the suggestion of Aflac chairman and CEO Daniel Amos. We gave Mrs. Trump, as one of the stars of the commercial, her own trailer and made sure she was comfortable and had everything she needed. Our team treated her nicely not because she was married to a famous person, but because we have a policy of being polite and respectful to all the talent on our advertising shoots.

Months later, the producers of The Apprentice asked Linda to be a judge on one of the shows, in which the apprentice hopefuls were required to create a car advertisement:

Before the first segment was shot, I introduced myself to Donald Trump, mentioning that we were the agency that had used his wife in an Aflac duck commercial. Well, Trump clearly remembered his wife’s experience, because right before the shooting started, he leaned over and said, “You were so nice to my wife. Watch how I return the favor.”

Then he got on and described The Kaplan Thaler Group as one of the hottest ad agencies in the country–on network television! He then went out of his way to include me in the on-camera discussions. All because we were nice to his wife.

The Power of Nice Principle #2

You never know.

OK, you’re thinking. So it pays to be nice to Donald Trump’s wife. But we’re all smart enough to cooperate with the important people in our lives–the people we interact with often, like neighbors and coworkers, and the people involved in important transactions, such as mortgage brokers and prospective employers. We’re much less likely, however, to worry about, say, a stranger whom we’ll never see again. Too often, our thinking is “What does it matter?”

Diane Karnett certainly never thought the young woman she met on a train home to New York City would transform her life. The woman was visiting her grandmother, who happened to live in Diane’s neighborhood, so they split a cab ride. When they arrived at the grandmother’s apartment, the woman asked Diane if she’d help her carry her bags up to the fifth-floor walk-up.

“I figured why not?” But by the time they reached the fourth floor, she could think of many reasons why not.

The woman’s eighty-five-year-old grandmother turned out to be an ex-Ziegfeld showgirl named Millie Darling, who befriended Diane and showed her New York as she had never known it. “Through the years, I was treated like royalty at her favorite jazz clubs and saloons,” says Diane.

That would have been more than enough reward for lugging a few bags up several flights of stairs. But it turns out Millie was the mother of Chan Parker, widow of the legendary jazz great Charlie Parker. When Diane was unemployed, Chan invited Diane to live with her in her farmhouse outside of Paris. Diane accepted and told her former employer about her move. They said that since she was moving to Paris anyway, why not set up shop and run a co-venture for them there? Diane remained in Paris for four glorious years, spending weekends at Chan Parker’s farmhouse, socializing with Chan’s fabulous and fascinating visitors–jazz legends, journalists, even Clint Eastwood. “I could have let that stranger on the train carry her own bags up. And missed it all,” says Diane.

When we meet strangers on the street, we usually assume they aren’t important to us. Unlike our friend Diane, we often avoid contact with the woman sitting next to us on the train or maybe even race ahead to beat her to a cab as we exit the station. The thinking is, “She’s just some woman who has nothing to do with my life. Getting the cab is more important than being nice to her.”

But how do you know that? This woman could be the sister of your boss. Or a real estate agent who knows of a home in your dream neighborhood. Or the head of a foundation that could give your fledgling charity the backing it desperately needs. The bottom line is, this woman is important to many people. You have to treat everyone you meet as if they are the most important person in the world– because they are. If not to you, then to someone; and if not today, then perhaps tomorrow.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Jay Leno

1. The Power of Nice

2. The Six Power of Nice Principles

3. Bake a Bigger Pie

4. Sweeten the Deal

5. Help Your Enemies

6. Tell the Truth

7. "Yes" Your Way to the Top

8. Shut Up and Listen

9. Put Your Head on Their Shoulders

10. Create a Nicer Universe



What People are Saying About This

"This little book will show you why women should run most corporations in America, and maybe the entire country. Reading "Nice" will improve just about everything in your life, and that's a promise."
—James Patterson, bestselling author and former CEO, J. Walter Thompson North America

"If the Power of Nice equates to: caring for other people, having honor, working with honesty, competing with dignity, sharing knowledge and behaving with kindness, then "The Power of Nice" should be a mandatory business seminar at every major university. Can you imagine if Enron executives had practiced "the Power of Nice"?
—Marcia Gay Harden

"In negotiation, the cheapest concession you can make is to be nice. And the returns can be high, as Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval show in this delightfully readable primer packed with practical advice and entertaining stories. I recommend it with pleasure!"
—William Ury, co-author of Getting to Yes and author of The Power of a Positive No (2007)

"In a dog-eat-dog world where so many seem prepared to do whatever it takes to get ahead, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval point out that it is truly the quiet, kind gesture that speaks most loudly. 'Please, Thank You, and 'No, You First' really are key words that should be a part of every go-getters lexicon. The Power of Nice should become the new bible for those looking to hit the top."
— Deborah Norville, Host of Inside Edition

"Leo Durocher was wrong! Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval's The Power of Nice is the antidote to our increasingly mean-spirited culture. I'm going to send a copy to every political campaign consultant I know."
—Arianna Huffington

"Having matured during the most savage era of entertainment, I can vouch for the fact that being nice is one sure means of success. Nice guys do finish on top."
—Dick Clark

"The Power of Nice is a wonder drug! It could literally save your career and your life... And let me suggest a first act of kindness: buy some extra copies for your enemies. I'll bet they need The Power of Nice more than you do."
—Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, the bestselling book on building relationships for success

"For my money, I would always rather make a deal with people I like who treat me well. If you want to discover the surprising power of nice, read this book. Memorize it. Use it. You'll be glad you did."
—Donald Trump

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The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A couple of years ago, there was a story in Esquire by a guy who "killed them with kindness" by making it his personal mission to thank everyone he came into contact with in a business or even personal capacity. So, each day he sat down and wrote a dozen e-mails to people specifically thanking them for their help with some minor thing (scheduling an interview, booking his plane ticket, etc.) Then there is "Yes Man" (the book, NOT the movie), which is an autobiography of a comedian who tried saying "Yes" to every Yes or No question for a year and ended up winning the lottery, making loads of new friends, and getting engaged. Then we have the Power of Nice... The book is a perfect completion of this sort-of accidental trilogy. The Power of Nice is a positive tome that counteracts the horribly negative business world's view that everyone has to be a cutthroat Gordon Gekko (a la "Wall Street") to get ahead. Look where that old idea has gotten us. Unlike my review, this book is a simple, quick read that will really motivate you. And, at the very least, you'll come out believing that nice people do often finish first.
rsouthan More than 1 year ago
Be nice, and people will walk all over you. If you believe that, you're probably not someone I'd want to be around. And neither would most people. That's why The Power of Nice argues that being nice, not being an aggressive jerk, is actually the best way to get ahead. This is an enjoyable, breezy read, but it's also informative and practical. And the idea it proposes is win-win: be nicer, everyone!
Kate_Kanda More than 1 year ago
Given the current economic downturn, when so many of us are losing our jobs and facing real economic hardship, we all could use a little reminder about the Power of Nice. As the career experts will tell you, "Now is not the time to burn bridges" and Kaplan Thaler and Koval's concise, enjoyable, and downright entertaining guide provides you with all the tools you need to put the Power of Nice to work. As they explain, being nice isn't the same as being a push-over. We can be nice while being strong and in the end, reap the rewards of our stronger networks and enviable reputations.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Growing up, my parents worked hard to instill the power of nice in all three of their children. I fondly remember Dad saying, 'A little bit of sugar goes a long way!' This book reinforces what my parents set out to accomplish during our childhood years. In my adult life, I have relied on this very important lesson and love the fact that it's now supported in print! Not only does it provide helpful reminders of the importance of being nice to one another, but it also includes ideas that can be easily implemented into our daily living. Thank you for reminding us just how far a little bit of sugar can truly go!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book clearly outlines the formula for success. I've been practicing the 'power of nice' for a few years and can say that having tried the opposite approach, I count this philosophy and practice with every ounce of attainment in my business and personal life. It's fantastic to see other businesspeople doing the same. The fact that the authors are at the helm of a billion dollar ad agency which is one of the fastest growing in the US is just icing on the cake! As they say, the proof is in the pudding.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book¿s enduring takeaway is deceptively simple . . . nice isn¿t just good, it¿s winning. A valuable reminder since our instinct to be nice is often lost in the daily pressures that drive our careers. Providing stories from their business lives and those of acquaintances as testimony, the authors drive home quite convincingly why nice is better . . . the psychic and tangible rewards. We can¿t help but see some of ourselves in these examples, and be inspired to achieve greater success by approaching others a little more thoughtfully. This is really an enjoyable book, with a meaningful message that you can act upon to make a difference in your personal and professional life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book¿s enduring takeaway is deceptively simple nice isn¿t just good, it¿s winning. A valuable reminder since our instinct to be nice is often lost in the daily pressures that drive our careers. Providing stories from their business lives and those of acquaintances as testimony, the authors drive home quite convincingly why nice is better . . . the psychic and tangible rewards. We can¿t help but see some of ourselves in these examples, and be inspired to achieve greater success by approaching others a little more thoughtfully. This is really an enjoyable book, with a meaningful message that you can act upon to make a difference in your personal and professional life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I received 'The Power of Nice' as part of a Bzz Agent campaign. I am hooked on this wonderful little book. It is based on the six principles of nice which are very similar to things our mothers taught us as children. It is sort of The Golden Rule in a business context. Linda Kaplan and Robin Koval have put together a business book that also translates perfectly into everday life. I'm buying this for everyone I know!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This little book can do more to make the world a better place than anything I have read lately. Not only does reading it help people (not just women), understand how getting ahead in their career by being nice is more effecient than being cut throat. It also serves as a lesson on how to treat people on a day to day basis...pointing out that 'nice' must become a habit. People should not mistake this as a 'chick' book. Any powerful man who reads it will agree it is a little, but strong message to be heeded by all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a bzz agent and was sent this book in advance as part of a campaign to get the word out and get my opinion of this book. It is common sense folks! he whole book is how you should have been raised by your parents and how to apply it in your work and social life. Such a simple premise and you know I think people forget how doing something for someone else makes them feel and you feel and how an act of kindness at work and at play helps alot of people. There are work questions in the book called 'Nice Cubes' and I ignored them until I finished the book then I went back and did the homework. It taught me alot about myself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Power of Nice is a well-written, well-researched look into how nice guys can (and should) finish first. It will make you rethink how you interact with people both professionally and personally. There are lots of examples of truly nice people that make a difference throughout an organization and even impact the bottom line. I notice I have begun to smile more and take a little extra time with people. Good book!
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TitoDuke More than 1 year ago
I bought this book after reading the power of small which is a good book but I am dissapointed by this one. I read "How to win friends and influence people" right before so this book has been boring and useless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wasn't overly impressed, probably because the book seemed to be a review of other books. One word summary, be nice because it can be helpful in the business world. There, saved you $12.50!
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RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
Niceness has a bad name in business. Indeed, usually it seems as if the bad boys and girls get ahead, not the good and kindhearted. No one would call former GE chief Jack "Neutron" Welch or Leona "Queen of Mean" Helmsley nice. But Welch started poor and is now worth $720 million. High-school dropout Helmsley was a billionaire until her tax-evasion fall. Authors Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval say these two toughies are not-so-nice exceptions that prove the rule: Being nice is not only the right way to act, it is the smart way to get ahead. The authors present real-life examples of nice guys who finish first. They demonstrate that treating people well pays in the end. getAbstract endorses their humane premise, while confessing some skepticism about their cheery take on how the world works. If you've lost a promotion, for instance, you might not agree that life is always sunny. The authors say hard work, not influence, always wins. Not necessarily, alas. However, this optimistic book has a lot of positive messages, including information nuggets labeled "nice cubes." One says you can ease people's stress by giving them chocolate. Another notes that you can make yourself and others feel better by smiling at them. That rings true: Any day when you get chocolate and a smile can't be all bad.
Jholder More than 1 year ago
Great information, and good tools for becoming better at business. I would also recommend Full Throttle by Dr. Gregg Steinberg
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bonjour_Poetry More than 1 year ago
Being nice to people doesn't mean we are pushovers or passive, but it means we are actively accountable for how we treat people in this world. I wonder how many times we've been rude or uncaring for no good reason, and then ended up hurting someone unnecessarily? This book will help you focus on the things that really matter. It isn't hard work, and it will change your thinking for the better. The Power of Nice was a short and simple read. It is a lovely book to read right before you go to bed. I did this and woke up in the morning feeling more positive about the world. It helped motivate me to look upon the world with gratefulness. Oh how your life changes once you do that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The "power of nice" is really a book about optimism as a business tool. Assume that others will respond positively to your attempts at warmth and your random acts of kindness - and they probably will. In today's world, this is a message people need to hear! - Lisa from MA